The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has banned the use of Russian music in public places and the importation of books from Russia and Belarus into the country in mass circulation. With regard to music, the decision of the Parliament of June 19, however, does not refer in general to Russian-language audio or video products.
The ban includes “products produced by artists or authors who were or are citizens of the aggressor state.” Moreover, such artists will no longer be able to perform on tour in Ukraine. The exceptions are those artists who now do not have Russian citizenship or deceased artists who were not citizens of Russia at the time of death.
Russian artists are persona non grata
According to TV presenter and producer Igor Kondratyuk, who, even before the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, collected more than 25,000 votes under a petition to completely ban concerts in Ukraine for performers from the Russian Federation, the adoption of this bill is a logical step to protect the country.
“This is the same defense of Ukraine as the one carried out by the armed forces in the places of clashes with the aggressor. Russian artists must be persona non grata in Ukraine until relations with Russia have a friendly basis. Since 2014, Russian artists have become just the vanguard of the Russian army,” he explained in a conversation with DW.
At the same time, the adopted bill provides for an exception to the rule: the ban will not touch artists from Russia, which in Ukraine will be included in the “List of musical performers of the aggressor state, condemning the aggression against Ukraine”. However, Kondratyuk calls this norm “strange”. He warns that the list will probably be created by the same people who previously allowed Russian artists to perform in Ukraine. In his opinion, the creation of such a list should be a public process.
Meanwhile, in the explanatory note to the bill, its authors pointed to one more aspect, namely, the growing popularity of Ukrainian-language music. According to Kondratiuk, this is true – data from paid streaming platforms from which music is downloaded and YouTube trends indicate that listeners’ interest in Ukrainian-language products is indeed growing. And the adopted ban, in his opinion, will not worsen competitive environment for Ukrainian musicbut will expand its capabilities.
Without books from Russia
By a separate legislative act, the Ukrainian parliament banned the import into the country and the distribution of publishing products from Russia, Belarus and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. We are talking, in particular, about books written in these territories, and about the works of authors – citizens of the Russian Federation. Literature released in Russian in other countries, can be imported into Ukraine subject to the availability of an appropriate permit. As the legislators note, the expert council, which will evaluate the books, will first of all check them for the presence of anti-Ukrainian propaganda.
“The ban on publishing books by authors who had or have a passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation is, of course, the reaction of society to the war. And those whom we can call “good Russians”, as well as “bad” ones, will not be allowed on the Ukrainian book market “, – explains the owner and general director of the publishing house “Folio” Alexander Krasovitsky, who participated in the development of this bill. He assumes that this decision can be overturned or provide for certain exceptions to the prohibition. “But now, I think, for security reasons, it’s better not to let everyone in, than to let not everyone in,” adds Krasovitsky.
Of the restrictions, by the way, there are certain exceptions. So, if the books were published in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine before its occupation, then the ban on them will not apply. The same applies to the works of authors who have changed citizenship of the aggressor country. Moreover, the ban will not apply to Russian-language books published in Ukraine before January 1, 2023.
How the ban on books by Russian authors will work
As Krasovitsky explains, the expert council will consider each situation separately. But if we generalize the principle, then the new rules will work as follows. Products, for example, Alexandra Pushkin or Leo Tolstoy, now published in Russia, it is forbidden to import to Ukraine. However, if their works are published in another country that is not subject to the ban, they can enter the territory of Ukraine. As Krasovitsky explains, the adopted draft law refers to the author’s citizenship in the Russian Federation, which is not equal to the citizenship of the USSR or the Russian Empire.
However, for those writers who have a Russian passport, things get more complicated. For example, for the works of Boris Akunin, who, although he does not live in Russia, but retains its citizenship, the procedure will look more complicated. In order for his book in Russian to reach Ukraine, it must not be published in the Russian Federation, and the expert council must not see anti-Ukrainian rhetoric in its text. In this case, it can be legally sold in Ukraine.
If a Russian writer actively uses such rhetoric – as does, for example, Zakhar Prilepin– then there is no chance to sell his works in Ukraine. Even if his works are published in “non-forbidden countries”, the expert council will block their way to the Ukrainian market. It is possible to import books into Ukraine in a number of other cases. Namely: if a person imports them not for distribution and no more than 10 copies, carries them in hand luggage or accompanying luggage, and the book itself is not included in the Register of Publishing Products of Anti-Ukrainian Content.
Support for Ukrainian bookstores
According to Krasovitsky, the introduced restriction will also reduce the number of contraband books. “Today, smuggling and counterfeiting occupy more than 10 percent of the market,” he says. “If now on the counter it is impossible to distinguish a smuggled book from a legally published one, then the situation will be different in the future. Everyone will be banned, so the smuggled one will be visible.”
Another decision adopted by the Verkhovna Rada provides for a state subsidy for renting premises for bookstores. To get it, the bookstore must sell books in Ukrainian, the languages of the indigenous peoples of Ukraine and the languages of the EU member states, as well as use cash registers.
According to Krasovitsky, in the future this should lead to an increase in the number of bookstores in Ukraine. “The result of this will be an increase in the average circulation, because the book is such a product that the more places of sale – the more sales, because it emotional commodity. More seats, more sales, more circulation, lower cost, lower price,” he explains.